A Belfast teenager has been praised for his heroics after he stopped a crazed man setting himself on fire by tackling him to the ground.
The frightening incident took place outside Belfast Town Hall yesterday evening. The unnamed man had set a fire on the pavement and was about to turn himself into a human fireball after dousing himself with white spirit. Paul Russell, aged 18, realised what was about to happen and pushed the man to the ground and restrained him until the authorities arrived.
The whole sequence was recorded by nearby teenagers on their mobile phones.
Russell was interviewed by the Belfast Telegraph and said: “He came from nowhere and started setting paper on fire. At the start we thought he was going to do a trick with fire and even when he poured the liquid over himself it seemed too weird to be true.
“When we tried to talk to him he poured some of the liquid over myself and a young girl and started screaming and swearing.
“I don’t know if I punched him or pushed him, I just wanted to get him away from the fire.”
The man had attracted the attention of a group of teenagers by gesturing and shouting on the street corner outside the city hall. He swore at them, telling them to go away but in typical teenager fashion, the group shouted and swore back at him, while remaining a safe distance away, and recording the whole thing on their mobiles.
The man then lit a small fire on the ground, before producing a bottle of white spirit and pouring it over himself. He also splashed some of the flammable substance over people nearby. The teens then feared what was about to happen and shouted at the man to stop, before Russell appeared and pushed the man to the ground to keep him away from the fire. The man slipped as he tried to get up and Russell pounced on him to keep him grounded with the help of a couple of passers-by.
He was restrained until the police arrived. The man reportedly had to be tazered by police as he resisted arrest and spat in on officer’s face. He has been detained under the Mental Health Act.
Dianna Montgomery-Shiels, an eye witness to the sequence of events said: “It’s just something you don’t expect to see and all I keep thinking is that it’s as well that boy did what he did; this is a very busy area.”
The mobile phone footage of the incident is available to view below. Please be aware it does contain some bad language and content some people may find upsetting.